Little Sarah Rector, a former slave, who became one of the richest little girls in America in 1914…
Sarah was born in 1902 on Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. She was the daughter of slaves who had been owned by Creek Indians before the civil war. In 1887, the Dawes Severalty Act forced members of the Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Seminole and Chickasaw to divide up their land and farm it in the hopes that by becoming farmers they would become “civilized” like the white man. When Oklahoma became a state, they would be assimilated into white ways. The land was given to both Indian and their former Black slaves. The best surplus lands that were ideal for farming were given to White people to live on. In 1906, Sarah Rector was given a small, poor quality subdivision of land that was worth only 566 dollars… in 1911 an oil gusher was discovered to be on Sarah’s land. Sarah’s oil reserve had the potential to bring in $50,000 dollars a month. On June 18, 1914, James C. Waters Jr, a special agent for the NAACP, sent a memo to WEB Dubois. Waters had been corresponding with the Indian Affairs Office and the US Children’s Bureau over concerns of the mismanagement of Sarah Rector’s estate. He wrote of her white financial guardian
“Is it not possible to have her cared for in a decent manner and by people of her own race, instead of by a member of a race which would deny her and her kind the treatment accorded a good yard dog?”
This prompted Dubois to establish a Children’s Department of the NAACP, which would investigate claims of wealthy, white oil tycoons who had been scheming Black Children out of their land and depriving them of their rights as land owners. In an effort to protect Rector from ”Greedy White Men,” Booker T. Washington arranged for her to receive a quality education at the Children’s School in the Tuskegee institute. Washington wanted her greedy white financial guardian to be fired and replaced by a trustworthy member of her own race, but this never happened. However, Washington got a $1,000 farmhouse for her, nicer clothes and petitioned the Muskogee County Court for Sarah to have more control over her own estate. At the age of 10 years old, while she was still a student at Tuskegee children’s school, Sarah Rector received hundreds of letters from white men who wanted to be a suitor and or marry the girl once she got older just so they could inherit her land. Some white men from as far as Germany wrote to her. Booker T. Washington called on “The National Federation of Women’s Clubs,” an organization which his wife was President of, and made them aware of the white suitors who were after Sarah’s money. He cautioned them to make sure that Sarah stayed focused on her school and married a suitable man of her own race. At the age of 20, Rector married Kenneth Campbell, a business man, and settled in Kansas City, Mo where she lived in a mansion. However the Missouri Legislature revised its majority Law and stated that the legal age to be guardian of one’s own property was no longer 18, but 21. A white man named John Collins petitioned to become legal guardian of her estate as she and her parents were “incapable” of handling her own money, but he was denied. Rector had two children by her husband Kenneth Campbell and they lived a quiet life in Kansas City. Rector was one of the few Black children who inherited land and was not completely swindled out or her money and estate by greedy white men. She was fortunate that she had the support of the NAACP and Booker T. Washington who made sure that she got her rights to her land.